Windsor Street Gasworks, Birmingham. Archaeological Watching Briefs

Birmingham Archaeology, 2017

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Birmingham Archaeology (2017) Windsor Street Gasworks, Birmingham. Archaeological Watching Briefs [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1046294

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Introduction

Windsor Street Gasworks, Birmingham. Archaeological Watching Briefs

Between May and June 2008 Birmingham Archaeology undertook an archaeological watching brief on the remains of three gasholders at the former Windsor Street Gasworks, Aston, Birmingham (NGR SP080881 ) on behalf of National Grid Property Ltd, ahead of remediation development (Planning Application number C/04997/07/FUL). The site lies to the north east of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. A watching brief was carried out on the remains of three gas holder tanks, and the surrounding area.

The Windsor Street Gasworks were opened in 1848 by the Birmingham Gas, Light & Coke Co, Ltd. as a replacement for their Gas Street works which had become outdated by that time. Expansion of the site in the 1880s saw the construction of a retort house, purification plant, and several new gasholders. The gasholders that form part of this archaeological watching brief date to the earliest phase of work in the 1850s. The company was taken over by Birmingham Corporation in 1870 following an act of parliament, and was later appropriated by the West Midlands Gas Board until production ceased in 1974. The site is currently being used as a carpark for the National Grid complex.

The interior of the tanks were recorded ahead of demolition. The area was opened up using a 360° excavator, down to the archaeology. A total of three gasholders were recorded of which two were known of prior to work commencing and a third was uncovered as part of the work. The foundations of several buildings were revealed on either side of the two tanks that correlate with known historical buildings mapped on the site. The area between the tanks was devoid of features, and the soil was heavily contaminated.

Birmingham Archaeology was commissioned in January and February 2010 by Celtic Technologies Ltd, acting on behalf of the National Grid, to undertake an additional archaeological watching brief in respect of remediation work at the Windsor Gas Works, Aston, Birmingham. The watching brief was conducted on ground works undertaken by the client and their contractors in order to remove and remediate contaminated ground. The work involved the recording of industrial archaeological remains of both standing structures and below-ground remains of the former gas works.

The watching brief found that remains of the original gas works partially survived in the area of development. Remains of the bases for possible purifiers or alternatively two Lancashire boilers associated with a former stationary steam engine used to power the original works were uncovered. The base of a tower scrubber (southern of a pair) for the purifying of gas was located west of this. A further three bases of cyanogens purifiers were also recorded that were the direct replacement of the earlier tower scrubbers. The work has allowed additional understanding of the processes involved within the work to be understood and has enabled the continuation of the chronology of gas works in Birmingham from the Gas Street and Fazeley Street works of the early 19th century through to the later 19th century and 20th century works.